September 18, 2014 4:01PM

Bankers Advise Fed to Regulate Bitcoin

Four times a year members of the Federal Reserve Board are scheduled to meet with members of the banking industry, as represented by the Fed’s Federal Advisory Council. This, of course, does not include all the many other occasions that the Fed meets with bankers. These meetings allow the banking industry to express its views to the Fed on a wide range of issues. Summarized records of those meetings are released to the public. In the most recent meeting, bankers raised, among other topics, the issue of Bitcoin. 

While the bankers did not yet view Bitcoin as a viable competitor to their role in the payments system, the bankers did express that Bitcoin “regulation is advisable.” Those soft‐​hearted bankers expressed a concern that without adquate consumer protections, users of Bitcoin would be vulnerable to fraud and theft. Bankers also suggested, presumably out of a concern for national security, that Bitcoin be subject to the same anti‐​money‐​laundering procedures, including Know‐​Your‐​Consumer, that banks are subjected to. Bankers explicitly suggested that Bitcoin be subjected to the suspicious activities reports (SARs) that banks must currently file. Personally, this all sounds like an attempt at “raising rivals’ costs” to me.

Interestingly banks also suggested that in “an economy hypothetically dominated by Bitcoin, its finite number (21 million) would prevent the application of traditional monetary policy tools to provide support…” In other words banks are concerned that a Bitcoin world would be one where bank bailouts and assistance were more difficult to achieve. I guess one man’s bug is another man’s feature.